BURNHAM — Maine State Police are investigating the “bizarre” circumstances surrounding the death of a Burnham woman who died after an intruder entered her home early Sunday, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.

Joyce Wood, 72, of 261 South Horseback Road, dialed 911 after a woman got into her house, McCausland said.

Before state police and a Waldo County Sheriff’s deputy went to the scene, Wood’s family members had arrived, found her and placed her in a vehicle in the driveway, according to McCausland.

“At that point, she was stricken and died in the vehicle,” he said.

The trooper and the deputy arrived and found the intruder in Wood’s house.

Police questioned her for several hours and released her, according to McCausland, who said no charges were filed against the woman, who has been cooperative and probably will be interviewed again as evidence from the house’s interior is analyzed.

McCausland said in a telephone interview at 5:10 p.m. Sunday that he could not comment further on the case until officials have investigated further.

“This is a bizarre set of circumstances, and we need to find out exactly what happened inside that house this morning, and that’s the phase the investigation is in,” he said.

The state medical examiner’s office in Augusta performed an autopsy on Wood’s body, but the results are being withheld.

McCausland said in a phone interview earlier Sunday morning that police went to the house after someone called 911 between 3 and 4 a.m. He did not release Wood’s name at the time, but neighbors identified Wood and said she is a widow who has lived many years at 261 South Horseback Road.

“She was a loving, loving woman,” former Burnham Selectwoman Anne Goodblood said Sunday afternoon. “She was a very loving mother and aunt. This is just a horrible, horrible incident. It’s so devastating and heartbreaking for all of the family. The whole town is heartbroken over this.”

Detectives were on the scene from the pre-dawn hours, apparently searching the area and interviewing neighbors.

Just after 8:30 a.m. Sunday, state police cruisers were parked at the end of a driveway on Winnecook Road, opposite the Burnham Town Office, where in the road, traffic cones had been placed near a pair of rubber camouflage hunting boots that were lying in the middle of the road.

About quarter-mile from the house, a trooper and a tracking dog were seen walking along the road. In addition, state police cruisers were seen entering and exiting driveways of area homes, and three were parked at the end of a driveway on South Horseback Road.

Officials from the Unity Fire Department closed off South Horseback Road to traffic on the Unity end of that road.

Wood’s home, an old Cape Cod-style house painted gray with an attached two-car garage and a barn in back, stood silent as news crews parked and took photos and sought to learn more about her death.

Across the road, down a long dirt driveway, Ernie Glabau and his partner, Patricia Pagano, were leaning against their car, remembering Wood, whose husband, Ronnie, died of cancer about 20 years ago and whose son, Tim, a firefighter for many years, died about two years ago, they said. They said Joyce Wood was a hard worker who loved her children and grandchildren.

“She was outspoken and blunt and she was one of the best neighbors I’ve ever had,” said Glabau, 61. “You always knew where her feet were and where she stood and what she had to say.”

Glabau said Wood and her nephew re-sided her house last summer and worked diligently at it.

“She painted every clapboard before it got put up,” he recalled. “She was out there at 8:30 or nine o’clock, as soon as her nephew showed up, to redo the house.”

Wood also baby-sat Glabau’s daughter, Danya, now 31, when Danya was young, and knew his other daughter, Tiala, now 25. He realized he must notify them of her death, as they live in New York City.

Pagano, 60, recalled moving to Burnham 10 years ago from New Jersey and finding a kindred soul in Wood, to whom she would bring eggs her chickens had laid. Wood had a strong Maine accent and Pagano loved listening to her, she said.

“She was a widow and I’m a widow and we used to talk about it,” Pagano said. “We would let down and cry; and then she lost her son two years ago, and same thing — we would cry. She was a sweet lady and I’ll miss her.”

Wood was meticulous about her property and mowed the lawn twice a week; she also kept a clean house and was always mopping the floors, Pagano recalled. She said Wood would wash clothes and hang them out on the clothesline and Pagano could see them blowing in the breeze from where she and Glabau live.

“I told the weather by her clothesline; if I saw her clothes out, I knew it was going to be a good day,” Pagano said.

Glabau, who owns a home business, ENT Wood Bonsai, where he grows and sells bonsai trees, said Wood was outspoken and if someone was a jerk, she’d call him or her out. If a person was good, he was OK in her book. That was one of the reasons Glabau and Pagano held her in high esteem.

“She wore her politics on her sleeve,” Pagano said. “I liked her a lot. She was always keeping an eye on this place and if somebody came in, she’d tell you.”

Wood has a daughter who had triplets and Wood was attentive to them, the couple said.

“Joyce was wonderful,” Glabau said. “She was all the aspects of a grandmother without any of the negative discipline associated with most grandmas when kids act up.”

But Wood had a fear that someone would break into her home, and she kept a bright light on outside, according to Pagano.

Glabau said he did not hear anything unusual early Sunday, but he got up to go to the bathroom around 5 a.m. and saw red lights flashing outside on the road. Twenty minutes later, they were still there, and Glabau went back to bed.

“I figured it was a chimney fire because there weren’t any flames busting through the roof or windows,” he said.

Later in the morning, a state police trooper drove up Glabau’s driveway and told him police were investigating a death, he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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Twitter: @AmyCalder17